New Delhi: Granting some relief to journalist Vinod Dua, the Supreme Court in a special hearing on Sunday restrained the Himachal Pradesh police from arresting him until July 6 in a sedition case lodged against him in the state over his YouTube show.
The top court said that Dua will have to join the investigation and there shall be no stay on the ongoing probe undertaken by the Himachal Pradesh police.
A bench of Justices U.U. Lalit, M.M. Shantanagoudar and Vineet Saran issued notices to the Centre and the state government and sought their responses within two weeks.
Senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for Dua, not only sought a stay of the FIR but demanded its quashing, saying the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression of the journalist has been taken away by filling of the sedition case.
Singh said that if such charges are slapped against individuals then many of them may fall within the ambit of sedition charges.
He said that the petitioner is willing to show the video clip of the show to the court.
Granting interim relief, the bench said that it was not going into the details of the matter and will also not stay the probe.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre and the state government, accepted the notice and said he would file the reply in two weeks.
The Delhi high court had earlier stayed an investigation into another case against Dua in connection with his show on YouTube.
The police in Shimla had summoned him for questioning over a sedition complaint by a local BJP leader.
While the complaint lodged in the national capital was over a YouTube show on communal riots in Delhi earlier this year, the Himachal FIR pertains to a show on the government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
Dua has been charged under sections 124A (sedition), 268 (public nuisance), 501 (printing matter known to be defamatory) and 505 (statements conducive to public mischief) on the basis of a complaint last month by BJP’s Mahasu unit president Ajay Shyam.
On Thursday, Dua was sent a notice asking him to appear before the police in Shimla. Himachal Pradesh police personnel had arrived at his Delhi home on Friday morning to serve the notice.
In his reply to the notice, Dua said he cannot visit Kumarsain police station because of his health, age and the COVID-19 protocol for travel and quarantine.
BJP leader Ajay Shyam had complained that Dua made “bizarre allegations” on his 15-minute YouTube show on March 30.
The BJP leader alleged that Dua had instigated violence against the government and the prime minister by spreading false and malicious news.
On Wednesday, the Delhi high court had stayed until June 23 an investigation into a similar case filed by BJP spokesperson Naveen Kumar.
The court had said there was an unexplained delay of nearly three months in filing the complaint.
Note: This story has been edited to clarify that the Himachal FIR pertains to a different show from the one on which the Delhi police registered an FIR against Dua.